The Sustainable Food Lab staff advises on sustainability strategy and procurement programs, designs and manages pre-competitive collaborations, and provides leadership development. Given the urgency, complexity and passion surrounding these projects, the Sustainable Food Lab approach is to create space for innovations that capitalize on diverse perspectives.
The Sustainable Food Lab supports food and beverage companies to operationalize their sustainable sourcing goals and commitments. The Lab also supports the effectiveness of NGOs and public agencies that work with businesses.
- Facilitating strategic planning and sustainability goal-setting for organizations as diverse as Sysco, Ben and Jerry’s, and Catholic Relief Services
- Meeting design and facilitation for dozens of initiatives including sustainable vanilla in Madagascar and water stewardship in Mexico
- Organizing supply chain summits and learning journeys, for example a summit of Unilever and Cargill, and an immersion journey in Indonesia by the Mars global sustainability team
In some cases, pre-competitive collaboration is necessary to deliver desired impacts. The Food Lab approach combines excellence in facilitation with sustainability expertise and networks of experts. The Lab organizes safe, creative spaces for collaborations to take root.
- The Cool Farm Alliance: building standardized industry-wide sustainable agriculture tools and methods starting with The Cool Farm Tool
- A Performance Measurement Community of Practice that developed a global framework for measuring supply chain performance for small farm commodities
- A Small Grain Initiative for increased small grain production in the US as a means of diversifying corn and soy rotations
- An Organic Grain Collaboration among U.S. based organic brands and retailers to increase the supply of organic grain
Measurement tools allow us to quantify the impact of specific supply chain and farm level decisions and provide us the data needed to learn from evidence around what works. The Food Lab developed and stewards two such tools in order to facilitate learning and engagement:
- The Cool Farm Tool is an online greenhouse gas calculator that is free for growers to help them measure the carbon footprint of crop and livestock products.
- The Shared Approaches Framework is a common framework for assessing and tracking improvements in the sustainability of smallholder agricultural supply chains.
The Sustainable Food Lab is designed to build not just projects and networks but also personal leadership capacities. Close partnerships with the Sloan School of Management at MIT and The Society for Organizational Learning have always been at the core of the Food Lab’s offerings including:
- One-on-one professional coaching and facilitation of coaching groups among peers in businesses or NGOs
- An annual summit that connects key players in initiatives across the world, always beginning with learning journeys to the field
- Direct links to state-of-the-art leadership development opportunities from the Academy for Systemic Change, the Society for Organizational Learning, and the Presencing Institute
Food Lab co-director, Hal Hamilton is faculty and program director for The Academy for Systemic Change. The Academy is a global community of senior practitioners and faculty, including Peter Senge, Darcy Winslow, Roger Saillant, Charles Holmes, Robert Hanig, John Milton, Claudia Madrazo, Joseph McIntyre, and Hal Hamilton. The Academy partners with organizations and networks deeply involved in developing living examples that illustrate what is possible in creating social systems that foster biological, social, and economic well being.
The Sustainable Food Lab, in partnership with the Academy for Systems Change, is now prototyping an “Impacts Leadership Lab.”